Systematically identifying relevant environmental aspects in ISO 14001 implementation for your organisation is fundamental to the effectiveness of an Environmental Management System (EMS), as well as fulfilling ISO 14001 requirements
Why are Environmental Aspects Important to ISO 14001 Implementation?
Environmental Aspects, as outlined in ISO 14001 Clause 6.1.2, are important to ISO 14001 implementation. This is because failing to include them will:
- Undermine the credibility of EMS with stakeholders (if a customer spots a major omission, what will that say to them about your organisation?), and
- represent a loss to your business (perhaps, a major cost-saving missed) as well as unnecessary damage to the environment.
Covid-19's Impact on Organisations' Environmental Aspects
The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are, at this time, unquantifiable. However, we already know that used PPE is already turning up in our seas. The environment is not a top priority for the man-in-the-street and PPE waste will not be the only new environmental aspect the virus and its consequence will introduce.
Our Course, ISO 14001 Lead Implementer, incudes detailed identification, risk analysis and risk treatment of Environmental Aspects
How to Systematically Identify Relevant Environmental Aspects for your Organisation
When implementing ISO 14001:2015 the identification of all applicable environmental aspects is fundamental. And in determining those environmental aspects, you must consider a life cycle perspective. The life cycle stages that are applicable will vary depending on the activity, product or service.
You need to determine, or re-determine, the environmental aspects within the scope of the environmental management system. Take into account the inputs and outputs (both intended and unintended) that are associated with current and relevant past activities, products and services; planned or new developments; and new or modified activities, products and services.
In the future, this will have to include new or revised systems of working. How, for example, will your EMS address home working, which will fall within the scope of your EMS?
What to Include in Your Organisation's Environmental Aspects
The method used should consider normal and abnormal operating conditions, shut-down and start-up conditions, as well as reasonably foreseeable emergency situations. Attention should be paid to prior occurrences of emergency situations.
You do not have to consider each product, component or raw material individually to determine and evaluate their environmental aspects. You may group or categorize activities, products and services when they have common characteristics.
NOTE: This image is taken from deGRANDSON's manual, ‘ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System Implementation Guide’, which is part of our Course ISO 14001:2015 Lead Implementer (incl. Auditor Training). It includes many examples plus sample procedures and records.
How to Determine the Environmental Aspects of Your Organisation
When determining the environmental aspects of your organisation, consider at least eight factors:
- emissions to air;
- releases to water;
- releases to land;
- use of raw materials and natural resources;
- use of energy;
- energy emitted (e.g. heat, radiation, vibration (noise), light);
- generation of waste and/or by-products;
- use of space.
In addition to the environmental aspects that it can control directly, an organization determines whether there are environmental aspects that it can influence.
These can be related to products and services used by the organization that are provided by others, as well as products and services that it provides to others, including those associated with outsourced processes.
For products and services provided to others, it can have limited influence on the use and end-of-life treatment of the products and services.
Ultimately, it is the organization that determines the extent of control it is able to exercise, the environmental aspects it can influence, and the extent to which it chooses to exercise such influence.
The Organization's Activities, Products and Services
Environmental aspects related to your organization’s activities, products and services, should also be considered. Examples include…
- design and development of its facilities, processes, products and services;
- acquisition of raw materials, including extraction;
- operational or manufacturing processes, including warehousing;
- operation and maintenance of facilities, organizational assets and infrastructure;
- environmental performance and practices of external providers;
- product transportation and service delivery, including packaging;
- storage, use and end-of-life treatment of products;
- waste management, including reuse, refurbishing, recycling and disposal.
Seeking Help with Identifying Environmental Aspects
It is unlikely that one person is capable of satisfactorily completing this exercise alone. A team of persons with relevant experience and expertise is needed. Mostly, the team you need will be working for your organization but external experts may also be required. If unsure, you should talk to a reputable expert/consultant before engaging their services. Begin the identification of Environmental Aspects by having a brainstorming session with your Team.
One of our ISO 14001 Series of Courses, ISO 14001 Lead Implementer, incudes detailed identification, risk analysis and risk treatment of Environmental Aspects.
Alternatively, if you want a quick refresher on ISO 14001, you can also get answers to frequently asked questions about the standard, the training involved, and the certification process on our ISO 14001 FAQ post.
Note: First published in July 2020; revised and updated in September 2021.